Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to NYC

Tomorrow, I'm flying to New York for a couple of weeks, with a long weekend in Chicago. My agenda is to see people (and eat a real bagel, have real pizza and a burrito), and I'm having to balance jamming in face time with the knowledge that if I overdo it, I'll pay for it, usually the next day.

As well as being unable to see all the people I would want to, it is a bittersweet visit. My first return to the city now that I no longer live there. I have so many memories of the place; I've had the best of times and the worst. I was there on 9/11, working on Wall St. There, my first tech talk at Google was when the International Space Station called. ("Where are you?" "Let me look out of the window... over Europe.") That's where I had my strokes. That's the city I went back to, and tried hard to live again.

It's a city I love, and I can't live there any more.

Normally, I don't regret that my life has changed. It's not like I can change it back, and change is part of life. I wasn't expecting such a big alteration, but, again, life is change. However, returning to NYC fills me with disquiet, I've realised. I'm reluctant to go, which is weird and a bit horrible. Even before I lived there, I enjoyed the prospect of traveling there.

It helps that I'm staying with wonderful friends and will have no trouble watching The Last Leg live from Rio while I'm visiting. If you haven't seen it, find it online at the Channel 4 website, it's great.

Anyway, I'm trying to get sorted for traveling tomorrow without thinking about the reality of it, because it hurts.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Vote, and vote for Hillary.

TL;DR: if you care about anyone disabled, then vote, and vote for Hillary.

I'm privileged that for 40 years I was able. Walking wasn't hard, conscious work, reading wasn't a difficult chore and balance was not a foreign concept to my body. I like to hope that I was a decent compassionate person and treated disabled people as full human beings with dignity and respect, but I can't be certain that - in my ignorance - I didn't slip up. I see unheeded mistakes and forgive them silently often enough.

Now, I'm doubly privileged to live with disabilities. Sure, they're a wretched pain in the neck, and nearly five years after my strokes I no longer remember what it was like not to struggle with simple things. Intellectually I know that I ran and jumped, read voraciously and could easily stand on one leg, but I can't imagine how. I say that I'm privileged to be disabled, because it's not that bad for me. It's terrible, but I've met people who have it worse, and now I know how lucky I was, without even realising.

It has made me pay more attention to how disabilities are portrayed and represented, and conscious of things that never registered before, and I'm glad because how we, as a society, show and interact with any minority speaks about what kind of society we live in. As with society as a whole, how individuals behave matters, especially when they are nominated for the US presidency.

This is how Donald J Trump publicly, openly mocked someone with disabilities.

Alone, I would consider that unacceptable. Even as a joke it's not OK, and there is no evidence that Trump was joking, nor that he can joke. He says what he means and he means what he says.

It's worse though because it reveals a horrible facet of Trump: he mocks because he thinks less of the other person, not for his ideas but simply because the reporter is disabled. He thinks that it is the norm to discount someone because they're disabled and is comfortable doing so.

Just to be clear: Donald J Trump thinks less of a disabled person because they are disabled.

If it was just disability, I would not be as ardent an advocate for ensuring he never gains the Presidency, but it's not, and he has shown that:

Trump thinks less of women.
Trump thinks less of people of colour.
Trump thinks less of LGBTQ+ people.
Trump thinks less of Muslims.
Trump thinks less of refugees.
Trump thinks less of immigrants.
Trump thinks less of PoWs.

All of those things disqualify him, and in sum, make him the antithesis of an American President. The President both represents and defines American society. In allowing Trump to become President, you would be acceding to his view of humanity and shaping US society; you are saying that you are OK with a worldview that sees the able as inherently superior to the disabled, men superior to women, whites superior to others, straight inherently superior to gay, and so on.

I think that is worth voting against. I'm sad that the US presidential race is still binary, but realistically, the only way to vote on November 8th is for Hillary Clinton, and you must vote.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Writing Myself Into A Corner

I'm right-side dominant and one of the strokes I had has affected my right side. For tedious reasons it is now too difficult for me to write and that makes life surprisingly challenging. That inability brings adult illiteracy into sharp relief as a terrible thing, but not my immediate problem.

A while ago, while watching the Antiques Roadshow, one of the punters brought a letter from Admiral Lord Nelson. The expert identified it immediately as one of his left-handed letters, since Nelson famously lost his right arm. I was stunned. Logic had failed me. It had taken four years and Sunday TV to realise that if one of my childhood heroes could learn to write with his off hand, so could I.

Thanks to a dear friend in America, I now have a copy of "Handwriting for Heroes" which aims to teach one to write cursive with the non-dominant hand after six weeks of daily exercises. The book is intended for military amputees and clearly has a soldierly bent, but I don't care: the fact that I haven't lost my right hand, let alone had it blown off is irrelevant; I still can't use it to write, and the book is written for adults. The latter is a great advantage: I fear little attention is paid to how wretchedly boring some therapies can be.

However, the book has been sitting in plain sight, with everything ready for me to use it, gathering dust for months. Why? I think I haven't used it for two main reasons: identity and defeat.
First, I am surprised at how integral my handedness is to my sense of self. I'm right-handed. That's part of who I am, like being 5'8" or a guy or my age. Unlike some of the things that can be altered or cheated on stage or screen, learning to write with my left hand seems like a fundamental change to me. I'd be different, somehow.

The second reason is worse: it feels like accepting defeat. By learning to write again with my left hand, which involves improving and developing its fine motor control, I am acknowledging that either the tremor in my right that is part of why writing is so hard will never get better, or that it will take so long to improve that I shouldn't hold my breath. In a way, it's worse that the book works on fine motor function, because that, if anything, would help my right hand.

Having figured out (probably) why I haven't yet started "Handwriting for Heroes" and come to the conclusion that my reasons are insufficient to actually stop me, and they're essentially bollocks, I need to have the intestinal fortitude to knuckle down and start using the bloody book. Continuing to dither and delay merely lends credence to the inadequate excuses I've been giving myself, and is no longer tenable, once I've done the figuring out part.

The reality is that I may never recover sufficient fine motor control of my right side to be able to write with it, but at this stage, four and a half years after I had the strokes, I'm certainly not going to recover it in the next six weeks, even if I do eventually can write, I'll be able to write with either hand (which is weird and cool), and the cost of not being able to write is too high.

In an odd way, it feels as though it would be easier to have lost the hand altogether. Then, I would have no alternative, real or imaginary, to fully using my left. As it is, though, I have the hope and hence the expectation, that my right hand will improve. Hope is not always as helpful as reality, and hope can be blinding.